QUEBEC – At least Ken Hitchcock knew it was coming.
The Canadian coach predicted Monday morning that his team was in for a “wakeup call” just hours before it was beaten 4-1 by Russia in the final exhibition game before the start of the IIHF World Hockey Championship.
Hockey Canada scouts had watched Russia’s 6-2 win over Switzerland a night earlier in nearby Trois-Rivieres, Que., and told Hitchcock that they would be a handful.
“I think overall this is going to be the wakeup call we need,” Hitchcock said before the game. “I think tomorrow we’re going to know exactly what we need to work on.
“We need this wakeup call and whether we want it or not, we’re going to get it.”
Afterwards, the coach walked up to reporters and said, “I told you.”
Even with Alex Ovechkin, Alexander Semin, Alex Radulov and Sergei Fedorov watching from the press box, the Russians displayed plenty of skill in front of a sellout crowd of 13,291 at Le Colisee Pepsi.
Fedor Fedorov, Sergei’s brother and a former member of the Vancouver Canucks, led the Russian attack with a goal and an assist. Sergey Mozaykin added a pair of goals while Alexey Tereshenko also scored.
“These guys have played a lot together over in Russia,” said Hitchcock. “They just sprinkle in the NHL players.
“We’ve got guys skating in their first game. We had to get them out of the holiday mode and into the competitive mode. That’s a challenge we face every year.”
Brent Burns replied for Canada.
The Canadian team heads to Halifax on Tuesday and will be met there by defencemen Mike Green and Dam Hamhuis – the last two guys to join the team. Canada opens the tournament on Friday against Slovenia.
The only other roster player missing in the loss to Russia was Rick Nash, who is recovering from minor throat surgery.
Canada had no shortage of chances on Monday night but failed to finish a number of good opportunities.
“We missed too many chances,” said forward Derek Roy. “We blew the puck by the goal or had it bounce over our sticks. We need to bury more of those.”
The first shot of the game actually put Canada up 1-0. Burns slapped a point shot past screened goalie Alexander Yeremenko just 17 seconds into the first period.
Russia soon took a penalty and Canada swarmed the Russian end, but couldn’t get another goal.
Instead, Mozaykin tied the game 1-1 at 7:31 on a power play for his team. He one-timed a shot over the glove of Canadian goalie Pascal Leclaire.
The teams continued to exchange chances throughout the period, much to the delight of an enthusiastic crowd.
The Russians had some success on the transition and created some of their most dangerous chances while short-handed.
Eric Staal got behind the Russian defence for a partial breakaway but couldn’t score.
“We’re going to have to bounce back,” said Staal. “We’re going to have to get better.”
Fedor Fedorov made his presence felt in the second period. He had a nice solo rush up the right side before beating Leclaire to make it 2-1 at 6:08 and later carried the puck into the Canadian zone and fired a shot that was tipped in by Tereshenko at 14:58.
That goal got past Cam Ward, who replaced Leclaire midway through the game.
“I think we all feel a bit of the rust,” said Leclaire. “We’re still getting used to each other.”
Canada carried much of the play in the third period and was spurned on by chants from the fans but couldn’t get anything else past Yeremenko.
Mozaykin capped the scoring with an empty-net goal.
Shortly before the game ended, the in-house announcer wished the team well and said it hoped to see Canada back in Quebec for a semifinal game.
There will be a lot of work to do in the meantime – especially after the wakeup call.
Hitchcock was happy it came this early.
“It’s good for everyone to be reminded how good teams are at this level,” he said.